4 semesters down, 4 more to go (hopefully)
The second law school year surprised me, to say the least. In my first year, I was introduced to the substantial aspect of the laws, the wisdom behind them and their eventual application to factual circumstances. I was given the overview of the legal precepts perhaps to whet my appetite for learning. I was given cases to read which more or less contained less detailed situations and whose issues focused more on the spirit and intent of the laws applied and the general relevance of said laws and the legal profession. In my second year, I was introduced to procedure. I've had my first Remedial Law subjects this time, and boy, were they complex. The primordial confusion on legal procedure generally stems from the wording of the provisions themselves. The Supreme Court promulgates the Rules of Court and more often than not, the construction of these Rules is subject to intense debate. Cases reach the Supreme Court on their interpretations with the Court oftentimes applying liberality rather than contrived elucidations. But sometimes the Court also applies the provisions strictly; that's where everything gets jacked up. The complexity is also multiplied due to the fact that these procedural laws are occasionally revised in order to reflect the current legislations on the judicial branch of the government and to expedite, if not modernize, court procedure.
I was honored to have been under the brilliant instruction of Atty. S for the entire year. Perhaps her notoriety was underplayed since I was oblivious of her existence and that I was utterly surprised when a week prior to the start of the classes, we were already slumped with several reading assignments. At the start of the course, her recitations seemed very intense since she focuses more on the procedural aspect of the reads and I was not used to this. (I often read the material with a non-selective eye, always trying to accumulate details which "I" think are relevant even if said details are entirely alien to the topic.) I kind of thought that for as long as I could say something witty and pretentious, then I was good. I was such a novice!
Good thing I was not the first student called. When said student delivered her report, she also received an intense verbal lashing from our professor. But our prof was, as always, correct. She admonished us to stop being so pretentious; that we see the cases in the level of trial courts, not use terms we did not understand and that we speak of the Supreme Court as a “supreme” entity. Thus, when one of my colleagues used the word "petition", (since generally all SCRA cases are petitions) she asked the reporter on the relevance of the term to the topic, if said reporter knew the meaning of the word, and if it was, at all, applicable. The next reporter who uttered the word "bereft" was met with the same treatment. Essentially, that was her pet peeve: to nip pretentiousness right off the bud. She was awesome.
I was in no position to complain. Never have I seen dedication to the craft more than hers. She taught us Remedial Law like there was no tomorrow. She even has a published book on Criminal Procedure. Her brilliance was infectious and I was inspired to work harder. I was, as far as I know, never intensely criticized for my reports owing to the fact that we learned well from the first reporters. But my study habits, specifically on my analysis of the provisions, badly needed to improve.
Our first exam came and what a shock that was. I barely had time to finish the entire ordeal because the content of said exam was far more comprehensive than I expected. The MCQs had 8 choices! That reduced our chances of getting the correct answer to 12.5% instead of the usual 25%. Imagine the mental hemorrhage we all had to endure because of that system. Even now I still could not wrap my head around an 8-choice MCQ exam. But of course, the legal profession entails writing prowess so essay questions were also thrown in the fray. They were actually quite reasonable, really. It's just that the shock I experienced from the MCQ was so far-reaching, I was unable to concentrate much on my essays. 8 CHOICES!
Apparently I was not alone in my despair since the exam results were abysmal. No one passed said first exam. The highest mark was a 73 and I got a 71. Not too shabby eh? (Pretentious!) The subsequent exams eventually became lighter. Atty. S limited the 8-choice MCQs and reduced the choices in half for most of the questions. But the essays were still challenging. She hands out bonus trivia questions at the last part of the test. I got the correct answer for the last exam and it actually helped to boost my mark. Thank you Atty. S!
I was still under the instruction of Atty. S for our course in Civil Procedure. I was very happy at that. Not only would we be experiencing the most comprehensive learning experience in one of the bulkier portions of Remedial Law, we would also be learning more from her legal style and of course, we would be able to bask in her brilliance.
Civ Pro is not for the faint of heart. The amount of reads, compared to Crim Pro, actually quadrupled. The course was SO lengthy we had to add at least a month and a half to the original course schedule. That was when I appreciated everything about Atty. S. Regular professors would pass up on that obligation. What generally happens is that they would concentrate on the first few months of the course, stretching everything that needs to be stretched, and then incur successive absences near the end of the course. That was not Atty. S’s style. Her discussions were ALL extensive. Although there were certain matters we took for granted, 99% of the time she would do everything in her power to give us everything that was necessary for us to understand the more relevant topics. She would BOMBARD us with significant cases and we would discuss EVERYTHING intensively. And by that, I mean INTENSIVELY. That is why professors who teach the same subjects she does would often pale in comparison to her because she’s systematic, technical and she fully knows what she does.
Our first exam this time was not as mind-bending as that first Crim Pro exam. I got an OK score even if she did throw bonuses left and right. However, come second exam, that was the first time in law school where I felt truly depressed. I was depressed for two reasons: first, because I was unable to give correct answers to her more basic questions and second, and the more important reason: I failed her. I actually felt embarrassed that she would be reading my answers. I thought she would be disappointed that after having given us her best effort, we would still not be able to deliver. I was an emotional train wreck that entire week. It actually had me reflecting on the propriety of my stay in law school and if the legal environment would be too much for me to handle. It was that life altering!
Eventually, we got over that phase and we were all stronger. She admonished us because we were openly complaining to her and to the rest of the academic community as regards the difficulty of her exams. She told us that the best teachers are those who give us the most difficult time; that they were the ones we would be thanking for and would be able to remember when the opportune moment comes. She told us that WE SHOULD CHALLENGE OURSELVES and not complain incessantly. She was correct, as usual. Very correct.
For everything you’ve given us Atty. S, I truly am thankful. I would not be writing this long article had you not been so significant in my life. You have given me more than what I deserve: you have inspired me to be more than what I am, more than what I can ever be. You have pushed me to the extreme that anything I achieve that is less than perfect would disappoint me and, I fear, you as well. Verily, you have changed me, for the best.
Thank you Atty. S. Your brilliance is infectious and you are irreproachable. We love you. :)